A-Bomb and Us

September 2001@ Memories of the A-Bomb Experience
by the 23 Term Students of Hiroshima Second Middle School

@@ gThe Poplar Tree Will Transmit The Story From Generation To Generationh

gPoplar Tree Will Transmit The Story From Generation To Generationh@We, about 110 of the survivors, wrote down our memories when we became 60 years old.

(Abstract)@@Abstracted and translated by I. Aratani

1. Preface
We, the 2nd year students of Hiroshima Middle School (approx.300), were almost killed
in Hiroshima by the A-Bomb on August 6th, 1945. Indeed, we were near the hypocenter
on the previous day, and we would have be there on the fatal day and time. However,
our schedule was suddenly changed on the day before at the impulse of one of our teachers.
Thus, although we were wounded, our injuries were not life-threatening. Our lives were
spared through the mysteries of fate.

Among the victims, we were young and in high spirits, and our injuries were not serious.
We tried to enter the city center to return to our houses or the school, and observed many
terrible and unforgettable scenes on that day and the many days that followed.

Although we were survived, we cannot feel any happiness when we remember those who
died, so we did not willing talk about our memories for many years. However, ten years ago,
when those of us who survived became 60 years old, about 100 classmates wrote down
their memories about the A-Bomb and published a book titled gThe Poplar Tree Will
Transmit The Story From Generation To Generationh. The poplar tree is the symbol of our school.
This article is the English abstract of that book.

2. Situation just before the bombing
Since the war was not going in Japanfs favor, students and others had been mobilized to help with the war effort. Upper class students went to work in munitions factories. First and second year students were engaged in the demolition of houses to construct fire breaks that were intended to prevent the spread of fire when the city was attacked by gIncendiary Bombsh.

These fire breaks were created around important buildings, such as the prefectural office, the city office and the Red-Cross Hospital. One of these open spaces, which was 100 meters wide and 3 kilometers length from east to west became the present Peace Boulevard.

A total of 16,000 private houses and stores were targeted for forced demolition. A total 8,400 of the first and second year students from various schools in the city were mobilized and nearly 6,300 of them were killed..

The location of our working site was south of present Peace Memorial Park, 800 meters away from the hypocenter.

3. A change in destiny
We had no summer vacation. Instead, first and second year students alternated school and demolition work every day including Sunday. August 6th was scheduled as a school day for our second year students. If the plan had not changed at the last minute, most of us would have been walking in the city on our way to school or would have been in the school buildings (1.9 kilometers from the hypocenter) which were destroyed and burnt by bombing. Either way, we would have been killed.

When our work was finished for the day on the day before the Atomic bombing, the chief teacher,Mr. Sekimoto ordered to us as follows:
"Instead of your original schedule of going to school tomorrow, you should go to the sweet potato field in the East Military Parade Ground on the north side of Hiroshima Station."
If we went to school as per the original schedule, most of us would have been killed in the center of the city when the atomic bomb was dropped.
We believed that the teacher,Mr.Sekimoto saved our lives.

Because the sweet potato field was located 2.2 kilometers away from the hypocenter, all 300 students and 6 teachers survived the bombing with injuries that took between one and two months to heal. In contrast, all of the 321 of the first year students and 6 teachers who were working as scheduled were killed. The tragic story of these first year students and teachers are recorded in the book gIshibumi (stone monument)h and was also introduced as a TV program. There is a monument for them beside the Honkawa River along the Peace Memorial Park.

4. Situation immediately before and after the bombing
Even though our injuries were slight, it was terrible experience.

When we were assembling on the field, we heard the whir of the propellers. Most of us stopped to watch a B-29 bomber evacuating the area at full speed, and two or three parachutes in the blue sky. A few classmates saw something like a black drum can dropping.
It must have been the A-Bomb.

Suddenly, a thunderous boom filled our heads and we were attacked by a terrible blue-yellow flash. The surrounding scenery brightened and illuminated, and we were dazzled. At the same time, we were blown off the ground by the blast of the bomb. We promptly covered our faces with our fingers to protect our noses, eyes and ears, as we had been trained to do at school. We held our breath when we smelt something like sulfur.
Some of us saw a fire ball at low height over the city center which rocked and flickered as it dropped. Then the heat wave reached us. We could hear our faces and hair burning.
The world around us became dark, and the gunpowder smell and yellow heat whirled around.
We didnft have the least idea what had happened. A few minutes later, the darkness lifted.
We stood up and saw the skyscraping mushroom shape cloud shining in shades of pink.
At first, we were relieved that we werenft seriously injured. But as we turned to our classmates, we found that our faces were sooty. The exposed portions of our bodies (faces, necks, hands, and ankles) had been burnt, and began giving us very sharp pain.

According to our school rules, we were supposed to take off our coats when we assembled for work, thus the earnest students who assembled earlier got burnt even on their shoulders.
Since we were looking at the plane when the bomb exploded at our left, all of us were burned on the left side of our faces. It was lucky that the explosion did not occur in front of us, so our eyes were not injured. Still, the skin on the burnt portions of our bodies slipped off easily when we touched it, and the pain increased when our flesh was exposed to the sunlight.

5. Immediately after the bombing at East Parade Ground and Futaba Mountain
The wooden railway ties that were piled on the ground soon ignited because of the heat wave from the A-Bomb, as did a wooden building on the mountain side. The houses of Atago-cho in front of us were destroyed but did not burn right away. A half hour later, however, small flames, which might have been generated in the kitchens, began burning in two or three areas of these houses. If somebody had extinguished the flames soon, the damage might have been avoided. However, most people were injured and they were quite at a loss about what to do, so the fire spread out.

We took refuge at Futaba Mountain together with other victims, since we were afraid that the Parade Ground, where many people gathered, might be attacked again by U.S. airplanes.
We also tried to escape direct exposure to the sunshine, which increased our pain. Because all the wooden structures were destroyed, Hiroshima city was flat and we had an extensive view before the fire.

One of passenger cars which was parked on the sidetruck on the East Parade Ground was burnt in a tornado of fire.

A crowd of injured people from the center of city had gathered. Their clothes were ragged.
The hair was burnt crisp and crimpy. They were almost naked. The victims walked like ghosts, holding their arms out in front of them. Their skin had slipped off and was hanging off their burnt flesh, which was red and inflamed. Some were injured so seriously that their bones were exposed. Their appearance was exactly the same as the models we see at the Peace Memorial Museum. One girl student had a twig stuck in her eye, but she still seemed to be courageous. There were many soldiers laying on the ground whose backs were seriously burnt. Although we wanted to take care them, we did not know what to do.

6. Action of individual students after the bombing
At the time, we were concerned about our families, homes and our school. We tried to enter the city to get our houses or school, but all the wooden buildings within the radius of
2 kilometers of the hypocenter were destroyed and ignited by the heat wave, and we could not get in because of fires. No one could cross over the bridge to the city center, so we had to wait until the fire subsided, or to make a wide detour around the big bonfire in the center of the city in order to reach the west and north suburbs. The ascending air current generated by the big fire caused a tornado near the hypocenter, and also created the gblack rainh containing concentrated radioactivity that fell on wide areas west and north of the city. Classmates who lived in the north east and the east got to their homes comparatively easily.

Public transportation stopped immediately after the bombing, but partial service resumed soon after. The next day, the National Railway Sanyo line began running from Koi (west suburbs), and Geibi line started service from Yaga (north suburbs); on the day, the Sanyo line resumed toward east from Kaitaichi (east suburbs) and Kure line began running from Yano (east suburbs). The street car toward Miyajima also started service on the day from Kusatsu (west suburbs). However, these trains were full of the seriously injured victims. Most of our classmates got home by foot.

Because the telephone network at the time was poor and was destroyed, many victims could not to contact their families to notify them of the situation, and many families were worried about their safety.

7. The terrible scenes which we saw on the way to our homes (August 6th)
Many people were trapped under the destroyed wooden structures. Others tried to rescue them, but had to give up when the fire drew very near. Would-be rescuers evacuated after they apologized to the victims and prayed for bliss of their death, leaving many trapped victims to be cremated while they were alive. One boyfs leg was pinned under the wreckage, and his courageous mother cut his leg to rescue him. However, he died from excessive bleeding.

The people who did escape from the wreckage were accosted by the heat of the fire. Injured people ran in every direction to avoid the flames. Since the range of vision in the smoke was only 5 yards, injured people sprung out from the smoke. We could see people trapped in the fire on the opposite bank, but nobody could rescue them. Many victims entered the rivers asking for water and escaping from the heat of fire. However, most of them died in the river. Even the fishes in the river were dead, their skin peeling from the bomb.

The bomb inflicted horrible injuries. Victims walked like ghosts, their skin slipping off their fingers, their lips and faces swollen. There were people whose entire bodies were bloody with pieces of broken glass. The roads were so hot that the asphalt was melting, inflicting more pain on those without shoes. The bridges were covered with injured people who could not be identified from their burnt faces; some could not be recognized as male or female. A mother holding her burnt baby cried for help. Another baby still sucked the milk of dead mother.
It was a hell of unspeakable torments.

All of the burnt people cried out gWater, waterh. Some, who were lying in the streets, grabbed the ankles of people passing them to ask water. In many cases, people did not give water, since there was a rumor was going around that gif the injured drank water, they would die.h
One of my classmates gave water to several victims, all of them died soon after they said gThank youh.

In our case of slight burning, blisters formed on the burnt portions where the skin remained, and when we drank water, the bubbles grew. When the skin on the bubbles was cut, slimy liquid, like egg white, streamed down. Ammonia was believed to be an effective emergency treatment for burning, so some people tried to throw their own urine on their burns. We also found that the pain decreased when our burns were dipped into water. We were surprised when we looked our images in the glass window. We looked quite different.

Our classmates who escaped to north-west area of city were caught the black rain. When the B-29 bomber came again, our classmates looked for shelter and they found a futon mat on the ground. When they covered their heads with it, they encountered a strange smell in the futon. There was a dead young woman whose whole body was burnt.

The people in the suburbs started to aid the victims. They supplied food, such as crackers and rice balls. The suburban schools were turned into emergency hospitals. Because the hospitals were crowded with the serious victims, we, the slight injured victims, were unable to see a doctor. Hiroshima city was burning all through the night.@

8. The terrible scenes we saw on the next day and several days later@
The city was reduced to ashes in one night. The very few building in the center of city which survived, at least partially, could be seen from the front of Hiroshima Station.

There were many burnt, black bodies on the streets and bridges. The bodies on the bridges were piled up along the hand-rails to make room for people to pass through. There were so many bodies floating in the rivers, it seemed that the water could be crossed by walking on them. Soldiers were busy pulling the bodies out and piling them up on the banks for cremation. Our school ground turned into a temporary mortuary, with 20 or 30 bodies drawn up in a line.
There was a burnt street car and burnt black body sitting on the chair inside. There were also many bodies of horses, swollen and burned just as the humans were.
There were bodies standing in the fire fighting water tanks. The injured who could not reach the rivers must have tried to escape into the water tanks. However, the tanks were crowded and the amount of water was limited and did not effectively shield them from the heat.
As a result, the upper parts of these bodies were burnt, and the ankles, which must have been dipped in the water, were still raw.@

The body of an American soldier was pilloried near the Aioi Bridge. Some people lashed it. He must have been one of the crew from the B-24 bomber which had been shot down over Hiroshima several days earlier. There were people searching for their families who were yelling at the top of their voices.

The situation in the temporary first-aid station in the suburbs was also terrible. There were few doctors with few medicines. There were sound of groaning and Buddhist invocations all through the night. A victim whose face was burnt was given water using a kettle, and, when he drank from the mouthpiece, the skin of his lips came off and stuck to the metal of the spout. One of our classmates slept together with a injured person at a place of refuge, only to find that the person died beside him during the night.

Most of victims in serious condition died within a week. The uncle of one of classmate who was near the hypocenter appeared to have survived without any injury because he was in the shadow of the building. But he must have been exposed to the radiation of A-Bomb while he stayed in the river for 10 hours, and he died several days later.

Since the medicines were not available, we tried to use various alternative medicines, such as a mixture of salad oil and salt, tinc oil given from hospital, powder from human bones, mashed raw potatoes, tincture, and boric acid liquid, etc.. We found that mashed raw potatoes were an effective emergency salve for burnt areas.

Because one classmatefs appearance was very ugly, his family concealed all the mirrors in his house. The burnt portion was suppurated and maggots bred there, and stank very bad. Fortunately, all of our classmates recovered within one or two months, and most of them are still alive.@

9. Individual comments, opinions and impressions@
Although we were all together at the moment of the bombing, individual classmates had very different experiences and attitudes. In order to reflect them accurately, the following is a list of comments about survival, the war, and nuclear power.

9.1 Surviving the A-Bomb
I canft simply be glad I survived when I think of the victims. I have a guilty conscience about them.
I regret that I couldnft rescue the people who were trapped and crying for my help.
What I could do? In such terrible circumstances it was barely possible to save myself.
I realized the mystery of fate, as our schedule was suddenly changed the day before.
It was the turning point of my fate. If I had seen a doctor near the hypocenter as I planned, I would have died the morning.@
The peace we enjoy now was given to us by the many victims of the war. Survivors should live every day without forgetting it.
The peace and prosperity which we are enjoying now were obtained through many sacrifices. Therefore survivors should make a contribution to permanent peace.
We should not forget the death of the victims. We should not repeat the evil.
I quietly pray for the bliss of the dead victims.
I am thankful to be alive.
Fortunately, I had a narrow escape from the A-Bomb. I am still alive, even though I continue to hover between life and death because of the disease.
I feel happy that I can work every day. I will continue to live and work as well as I can
in memory of the victims who gave their lives.
I am grateful for my good fortune of survival, and am considering how to repay it.
I was almost killed, but I survived and started another life. Fortunately, I am busy all day and night with my job even the age of 60 years old.
We had a valuable experience in our youthful years, and we should put it to use for the progress of our country.
The first year students died in our place.
The daily hardships and food shortages after the war were harder for me than A-Bomb.
Some people say that the A-Bomb was our destiny. But I think we should take action to seek a nuclear-free and peaceful world, and should continue to tell the story in honor of the victims.
I believe that the A-Bombing and Sovietfs entry in the war could be avoided if the Japanese government had clearly responded to the Potsdam Declaration. Instead, the Japanese government replied using a difficult word which means gignore or keep silenth and it caused the misunderstanding that Japan grefusedh it. Japan should have accept it or clearly replied that it was gunder careful considerationh.
To the souls of all victims! Please forgive the most foolish action that humans have ever done.
Instead of blaming, we should consider what the survivors can do.
I really thank all the people who took care of me at the time. Because of them, I am still alive and feel youthful.
I feel that our generation has a particular destiny. We faced many difficulties and challenges, such as the war, A-Bombing, reform of the education system and economic growth, etc..
I first wrote down my memories of experience of A-Bomb, because I didnft want to be reminded.
When my younger brother wanted to stay home from the school that morning, I forced him to go, and he died as the result. Ah! Many memories come and go, but they are as fresh as if they happened yesterday.
Whether the militarism education that we received during the war was right or wrong, we students honestly studied.
I know now that education can really affect peoplefs beliefs, because our education at that time really convinced me of Japanfs invincibility.

9.2 Memories of the terrible scenes
Itfs unforgettable.
I donft want to remember it.
I had never told anyone about it.
People who have seen hell do not want to talk about it.
Although I kept quiet for a long time, I have began to think that it is our duty to set the record straight.
Pieces of broken glass are still stuck into the wooden pillar of my house.
Who bears the blame for the massacre?
We learned of extreme human cruelty, but I am down-hearted because I canft do anything against it. The best thing we can do is publish our experience as a requiem for the soul of victims.
It was the longest, most nightmarish day of hell on earth.
I lost my memories about the A-Bombing, but they gradually returned as I tried to write them down.
I was really happy to see my family after I experienced such hell on earth.
I realized that I had lost my fear and my ability to feel when I saw peoplesf death in such hellish circumstances.

9.3 Opinions about the peace movement & peaceful uses of atomic energy
An A-Bomb is never acceptable.
EI oppose the use of atomic weapons, but I agree with uses of atomic energy.
ENuclear weapons should never used. However, I expect the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
EI am concerned about accidents at nuclear power stations.
EI concealed the fact that I am an A-Bomb survivor for long time, but now I am not sure if that was the right decision or not.
EI would rather pray quietly for the bliss of the dead of the victims than join the peace movement with a loud voice.
EI realize the value of peace, and wish for a peaceful world without politics.
EI always pray alone for the bliss of the dead and sing the song gA-Bomb should not be allowedh in my mind on every August 6th.
EI have prayed at the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb victims on the Peace Memorial Day every year. I wish for a war-free world.
ESome pacifists believe in gpacifism in Japan aloneh which has no relationship to international circumstance. However, I think that this movement will not be able to achieve the real peace world.
ESome people who wish for peace world deny not only the war but also military power. However, I think
EJapan should not close its eyes to inhuman activities or international violence.
EI donft support the political parties that use the peace movement for their own goals.
EWe should teach young people about the hardships and foolishness of war, and consider Japanfs duty to achieve a peaceful world.
ESince I became a school teacher, I talk about my A-Bomb experience in class every August, in order to educate the students and encourage them to consider peace.
EWe should share our important experience with the younger generation as an admonition.
EMy school works to achieve a peaceful society by studying the war from the perspective of both sides.
ESince the A-Bomb is a high technology weapon, I thought of the victims when I saw the TV news about the other high technology weapons that were used during the Gulf War.
EMy wife and I visited the peace monument on my trip to Hiroshima and prayed for peace. However, we were sad that disputes continue to occur in many areas in the world.
EI hate weapons of mass destruction. As long as egoism of each country is not eliminated, real peaceful coexistence cannot be achieved.
EIf the A-Bomb was not dropped in Japan, the end of the war might have been delayed, and the number of victims on both side might increased, Furthermore, the A-Bomb became the deterrent to an all-out war.
ETherefore, the A-Bomb victims should be praised.
EPraising the A-Bomb victims for their contribution to peace still cannot make up for their suffering or their death

Editorfs note: Thank you to Rahna Reiko Rizzuto for proofreading this abstract.

A-Bomb and Us@toppage@next